Designing a hands-on, inquiry based math curriculum using Reggio philosophy for 1-5

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Jem, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Apr 27, 2010

    Whew.

    Yes. I'm sitting here with blank paper in front of me, three types of math programs stacked up next to me and a whirl of ideas in me.

    I have the delightful pleasure (no sarcasm!!) of designing our programs next year from scratch. I'm starting with math. Here's the rub:

    It has to be able to reach first through fifth grade. We have 20 enrolled at the moment, and will eventually have 40. There are two teachers-myself and a guy who admits he does not care to teach math. But I think really he doesn't like to teach worksheets, which makes complete sense. Anyhow, it has to stretch the gamete of skill levels.

    It has to be hands-on and inquiry-based, with as few worksheets as possible. Hopefully no text or workbook. We can use or create our own activity sheets (needed for practice) and put them in sheet protectors for the kids to use vis-a-vis on. I also want a game/art/activity center that kids can use when they finish early, maybe color coded for skill level.

    It has to follow Reggio. Seeing as Reggio is a pre-school program, I can't find any rules/guidelines for academics. So I'm thinking we create a skeletal program outline, and then modify and integrate for the current class interest. (Reggio uses student interest to guide teaching).

    I've gone through the CA state standards for each grade level and written them down. I'm seeing a lot of room for 'stacking' the standards, such as first graders need to count to 100, second graders to 1,000, etc. And I'm seeing tons of room to incorporate art (a constant in Reggio), especially with the geometrical standards.

    Has anyone done this? Any advice or tips? I'm not sure if I should just start making folders of project ideas for each 'strand' with the grade level attached that we can pull from, or if I should create something a bit more structured. I'm off to ask our Reggio adviser, but thought I would post here, too!
     
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  3. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Apr 27, 2010

    Jem, just ask some of us oldtimers. We have been there, done that, and seen everything.

    I took a math for elementary teachers that taught hands on learning. I am not sure how Reggio inspired these ideas are, but they can get you thinking and modifying to meet your needs.

    The class was about 20 years ago, but I will list what I can remember.

    1. Use a lot of counting markers--bears, poker chips. Help them visulize and internalize the concept by seeing it.
    2. Use playing cards so that children learn the shape of the number. Look at how the spots are arranged on a playing card. When a child visulizes a number, his brain should picture this shaping of dots. Dominoes have the same arrangement, and make great learing tools.
    3. Use games to make numbers real. Dominoes can be matched, or you can play real dominoes with the addition and division factor.
    4. I remember estimating how much items weighed and then weighing them to test my estimate.
    5. I once had my students build a house. We observed a house being built, and then explored how we could build a house in the classroom. Lots of estimating, measuring, and activity.

    Those are all I can remember right now, but if I think of any more, I will be back.
     
  4. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Apr 27, 2010

    Great ideas, Blue-I LOVE the playing cards ideas.

    I'm making a list of nature-found manipulatives. I've got pebbles, shells, acorns and tiny pinecones. The kids can make patterns, sort, group, etc. I also want to do a lot of art with each idea and have a math museum with the art.

    Still brainstorming...
     
  5. Grover

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    Apr 28, 2010

    I come from a constructivist but not a Reggio background. We did a lot of stuff along the lines of Blue's fifth suggestion. Cooking is also a very good area to do practical math- and eat the results.
    While I never worked in a Reggio program, I have read about the original program, and it's not a pre- only program. Maybe if you get source material from the original Italian program it will help you with some of the upper-grade issues.
    I would suggest that one issue in Reggio that is particularly significant in math is that of providing continuity and an orderly building up of conceptual structures. It's easy for teachers to get over-committed to the child-lead aspect of the philosophy and lose the attention to over-arching structures. In math, a very good counter to this problem is the Gattegno program for Cuissenaire rods. It is cheap, easy, fun, and discovery-oriented while maintaining a coherent and very well thought out overall structure. It is developmentally appropriate for k+. even though it is basically algebraic in approach. It allows students to proceed at their own pace, and is very easy for math-phobic teachers to teach (partly because it involves a lot less active teaching than most math programs). The last version of the program I used (about ten years ago) did have some little tiny work books with it, but they aren't really necessary. They are just a convenient guide to some reinforcement exercises. I've taught the system effectively without any materials besides the rods.
     
  6. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Personally even though I tend to lean more on the constructivist side, I'm not an all or nothing person. I tend to be leary of any approach that doesn't provide some balance especially as they get older. I'm in favor of less worksheets but not none or almost none because kids need to see and read math language too.

    In K yesterday we had this wonderful hands on activity using colored construction paper tomake our own island (mini geography unit) and some kids were sitting on the island while other kids went swimming. How many are left on the island? Then we switched it up and applied it to different role playing activities. In the end, I wrote the math language on the board, explicitly taught it and then turned them loose on the worksheet. Then I made each kid read the worksheet to me as they turned it in. Even in K we've been talking about how some words are key words. Some words tell you that you need to add. Other words tell you that you need to subtract. But we always do a variety of activities from computer games to drama productions or even art. The key is to remember that there is a balance. So when choosing a program, my recommendation is to think about this instead of dismissing the need for textbooks, etc. (I am by far not a fan of lecture/textbook style of teaching especially in elementary. I'm only stating that some in moderation is necessary.)

    If you buy a program, let the reps come talk to you. If you are looking at systems, I can't help you there except to say that moderation is the key. I personally don't know anything about Reggio and wouldn't have even answered this post if you hadn't mentioned the few magic words about worksheets. I do, however, like inquiry-based programs in general.
     
  7. TiffanyL

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    Apr 28, 2010

    I agree wholeheartedly. My early years of teaching, I was in a school that really limited my creativity due to their philosophy. I ended up leaving and ultimately found a school/district that allowed me to teach creatively, any way I liked as long as I was getting results.

    For me, anytime I was faced with the "that's against our philosophy" attitude within a school, I cringe. For me, its a "whatever it takes" attitude.

    Sorry, Jem, hope this doesn't sound like I'm knocking Reggio.....I know nothing about it at all.....I'm just rambling out loud.
     
  8. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Apr 28, 2010

    No worries-love the feedback.

    The school is committed to Reggio, and I was hired to develop this curriculum, so I'm kind of boxed in there. I have a zillion ideas on how to make math hands-on, and I, too, believe there is a place for activity sheets. But I do know Reggio has very specific principals of which I'm not terribly familiar with yet. We have a consultant who I'm bouncing my ideas off from, so I'll let you guys know what she says. She's directly related to Reggio in Italy, so she's very official and knowledgeable. I should know more tonight. Until then, I'm holding off and working on Reading/Writing workshop....
     
  9. Grover

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    It's a misconception that academic rigor is anathema to constructivism, or that the guiding role of teachers is to be eliminated. Constructivists teach the alphabet, too, you know! Any arbitrary schema must be taught at it's initial stages, at least. The issue is whether the teaching of skills and subject matter is bound up in a developmentally appropriate context of meaning from the student's perspective. Teaching math and then applying it to cooking works for second graders. Teaching math and telling them how important it will be to them in ten years when they want to get into college doesn't.
     
  10. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    But Grover, there are some people that interpret it that way just like there are some people that interpret traditional teaching as all paperwork. The red flag words came up for me so I spoke.

    There is a program I've been trying to think of all day Jem that is more inquiry-based for math and I can't for the life of me think of it.
     
  11. Grover

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    Well, that's why I responded- it's not good to let a false definition (even it's one used by some alleged constructivists) stand unchallenged, that just skews the debate. It's as if we were have a discussion of religion and I said my problem with Catholicism is that the Pope eats babies. That would be wrong because I've never had dinner with the Pope... :eek:
     
  12. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Apr 28, 2010

    Haha, Grover.

    The programs I am pulling from include Everyday Math, Real Math, Investigations and California Math. I have various teacher editions from each program, so I'm going to piece together and knit a program from that and other resource books.

    I'm still waiting to hear back from our advisor regarding if I should just have a collection of project ideas, or if I should have more of a lesson sequence. It's very frustrating to just sit around and wait for guidance through e-mail. I'm use to taking charge and just getting it DONE. I'm a workaholic and will put more energy and time into my job than ever asked, but I need to know what the guidelines and expectations are. I hate this sitting around.

    It's been a rough day on this front.
     
  13. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Apr 28, 2010

    Word of warning if you're going to build the program from the ground up:

    Sequencing is important in math. While there's no one "right" sequence, the order in which you teach things IS important. At the very least, follow the topic sequencing of an established program, even if you don't use their materials or methods.

    On I side note, I'm partial to Singapore Math.
     
  14. Grover

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    I agree with mmswm re: sequencing. The problem is that just because a program is published by a major publisher doesn't mean their sequence makes any sense or is developmentally appropriate. I really urge you to check out Gattegno, it's very constructivist internally and melds well with other constructivist elements- and you won't have to pull your hair out figuring out all this stuff yourself. Just look- I think you'll love it.
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I didn't say published, I said established. There's a difference.
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Apr 28, 2010

    Not sure what you meant there???:confused:
    A gamete is a cell that fuses with another gamete during fertilization (conception) in organisms that reproduce sexually.

    Back to the question at hand....Inquiry based instruction using replacement units such as those designed by Marilyn Burns et al. may interest you. She has many resources listed at her website:

    http://www.mathsolutions.com/

    Investigations is quite controversial...I personally can't stand Everyday Math...it's not lacking in worksheets and isn't aligned with my state standards, their tests are ridiculous and some of what they cover isn't developmentally appropriate, IMO.

    Just realized...you probably meant 'gamut'...funny.
     
  17. Grover

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    Alright. The problem is that just because a program is established doesn't mean their sequence makes any sense or is developmentally appropriate.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Apr 28, 2010

    :rolleyes:
     
  19. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Jem, I suggest you look at Math Their Way, as I have seen some of the handmade games. I used Workjobs for years. It is designed for PK, but with some imagination, it can be changed for any age.

    I love to wright curriuclum. Most PS teachers have to write their own currculum, so I have written a lot for PS. I also wrote a curriculum for teen parents for my school district. If I can be of help with the PS part, I would be happy to help.
     
  20. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Thanks, Blue!

    I wonder if I can find any Math Their Way texts. I'm trying not to buy anything. Maybe after a summer of hunting more for Sprout...
     
  21. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Apr 29, 2010

    Jem, Just wanted to wish you luck. I think it is challenging to do a fully Reggio-inspired project based curriculum and cover standards. Obviously, you would cover a lot of standards naturally, but to cover them all would be hard - a teacher would have to be very intentional. I guess that is what negotiated curriculum is all about - a mixture of child-centered and the teacher's knowledge of what they need to know.
     
  22. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    May 2, 2010

    Jem, just a suggestion, maybe you can try asking on the Special Ed. teacher boards. We are used to making our own curriculum!
     
  23. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    If I were you I would outline the main goals you have for each age group based on your curriculum, then develop a outline for each age group based on what you want them to learn by a certain date in terms of math. Then think of themes you think the kids are interested in (such as airplanes..most kids still look up at the sky when one passes over regardless of age..you could focus math around paper airplanes) and create your project around that central theme with smaller groups focusing on different aspects of the same project (such as first graders focusing on the distance a plane might fly, second graders working on the speed of the craft through multiplication, etc). You do not need to think of the themes until you have the scaffolding (ie goals/targets) since the theme should be flexible enough to encompass them and since they come through observation.

    Reggio is not anti-worksheet so you could create some worksheets that outgo from a larger theme for better understanding for some children. Then do ongoing documentation of the project for better understanding by the children and understanding of different aspects of the project by different ages. At least then you would have a focus for each age group.
     

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